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Cedar-Riverside caucus investigation: Mayor Hodges asks St. Paul police to take over

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has asked St. Paul police to take over the criminal investigation of the beating of a City Council member’s aide at a Feb. 4 precinct caucus in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in order to ensure “transparency and impartiality.”

The caucus in the House race between DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn and School Board member Mohamud Noor erupted in chaos two weeks ago. Ilhan Omar, an activist and aide to Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson, was hit and later treated for a concussion in the hospital.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been disturbed by the allegations of violence and intimidation that happened at the Cedar-Riverside caucus,” Hodges said in a release.

“I asked Police Chief [Janeé] Harteau if she could transfer the independent investigation to avoid any perception of a potential conflict of interest. In this unusual situation, when elections and politics are involved, it is in the public interest to ensure there is an absolute level of transparency and fairness to not just those involved, but to the entire city and state. It is imperative to all that we make sure there is not an ounce of question about the impartiality of this investigation.”

Johnson and City Council Member Blong Yang, chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee, have been critical of the Minneapolis Police Department’s efforts so far. Johnson said police lagged in taking Omar’s initial statements for their investigation.

A Hodges spokeswoman said she was unaware if the mayor was concerned with how Minneapolis police have handled the inquiry.

“I’m pleased with Mayor Hodges taking this seriously,” Johnson said in a Friday interview. “I am looking forward to a full investigation and Ilhan being able to get her experience documented and hopefully for there to be justice with everything that happened.”

Omar said she was threatened multiple times throughout the caucus night. She also says Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame, who is supporting Kahn in the race, told her boss she shouldn’t show up to the event or there could be trouble for her. Omar is widely believed to be a Noor supporter, though she denies any public preference in the race.

There’s an ongoing city investigation and a workplace complaint against Warsame, who has declined to comment on the matter.

The Minneapolis police are not yet releasing the details of their investigation because the case is now moving to St. Paul.

“I have the utmost confidence in my police department and their handling of the case thus far. Due to the unique circumstances presented in this case, our partners in Saint Paul will now oversee this independent investigation,” Harteau said in a statement. “I want to thank Saint Paul Police Chief Tom Smith for his assistance.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/22/2014 - 08:52 am.

    “…not an ounce of question about…impartiality…”

    The Mayor’s action here is the right thing to do, in the circumstances. I am glad to see she recognizes the fundamental risks to the credibility of the political process in a whitewash, or even the appearance of a whitewash, in this investigation.

    We want to know not only the details about the violent incident, and to see a proportionate response by the public authorities.

    We also want to know who planned provocations and paid provocateurs to create an atmosphere of mayhem. Who was it who saw such mayhem in their interest? Was violence part of the plan?

    Rep. Kahn has done an immense public disservice by her comments about that violence, which our political process cannot afford. It is reassuring to see that the Mayor, at least, is taking it seriously.

  2. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/23/2014 - 12:40 pm.

    “Security as transparency”?

    We’ve-come-a -long-way….sounds a wee bit like a South American election foreplay…not exactly Pinochet but keeps one wondering…what comes next?

  3. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/23/2014 - 09:48 pm.

    a question…

    To clarify my first comment…it seems a sad and even dangerous situation to call for police investigation before any citizen panel of representative voter/citizens do carefully ‘investigate’ a situation at one party caucus that turned violent.

    The right of privacy and networking law enforcement on a national scale already have been given control more than we would have dreamed some few years ago – databases of private citizens etc – more than a free society should accept quietly? And now the foreplay to elections, the party caucus… seems like a bit of a violation when police investigation prempts citizens right to judge the conduct of their voting peers? Where will we go next, or accept without question carelessly?

    What process should be implemented before police and criminal intent is clarified by whom? Who should establish the initial criminal intent? Is there a step in the process missing here? I don’t know but I must at least question if the process is flawed by bypassing citizen panels and their right to establish initial criminal intent?

    Overt reaction…maybe so but I do wonder?

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